Curated Marketplaces

Stephanie Tilenius, who is an EIR at Kleiner Perkins, wrote an interesting post on curated marketplaces last week. She mentions our portfolio companies Lending Club, Etsy, and Kickstarter in her post.

Stephanie argues that the old rules of building marketplaces, that led to big businesses at eBay (where she worked) and Amazon, are giving way to a new set of rules. This line, in particular, got my attention:

Consumers now demand beautifully designed and curated experiences, especially in a mobile-only marketplace.

I agree with Stephanie that marketplaces need to be simple, beautiful, and easy to use on mobile in order to succeed in the world we live in now.

We have a lot of marketplaces in our portfolio. I think they may be the single largest category of investments that we make. They are the commerce instantiation of our large networks investment thesis. So we talk and think a lot about them.

There is a tension between curation and being open to all comers. Lending Club curates its market by limiting borrowers to those with sufficient credit rating. That provides benefit to the lenders on the platform and has led to relatively low default rates over the years. Kickstarter states that "We never curate projects" but they do have guidelines on what can be posted on Kickstarter and what cannot. Etsy doesn't "curate" either but they do have guidelines on what can be posted in an Etsy shop, and those guidelines were changed last week to make Etsy open to a wider range of sellers.

Marketplaces can work in a highly curated model or a wide open model. Stephanie's post suggests to me that marketplaces are moving to a more curated model in order to become more user friendly (in many ways, not just on mobile). I think entrepreneurs need to be careful not to curate too much because you lose the power of the peer network, open Internet model that has proven to be so potent and disruptive over the years.